Mateo Candanoza
Warriors junior Mateo Candanoza reaches the finish line Thursday to win the Oregon West Conference individual title. (Photo courtesy of Craig McDaniel)

The Philomath High School boys and girls cross-country teams swept top team honors at the Oregon West Conference championships Thursday in Eugene — but not without a few surprises.

In the boys race, Warriors junior Mateo Candanoza hit the finish line in first place to take individual honors and the team got an inspirational performance by junior Ben Hernandez. And for the girls, Philomath easily took the championship trophy despite its top runner pulling out with a leg injury.

Coach Joe Fulton said the meet “held some surprises and some heartbreak for our Warriors but in the end, both teams won the titles and advanced” to the state championships coming up on Nov. 6 at Lane Community College in Eugene.

Heading into the meet, Adele Beckstead for the girls and Brody Bushnell for the boys have been the clear No. 1 runners for each PHS squad. But unfortunately for the Warriors, Beckstead struggled during Thursday’s race and had to pull out with a leg injury and Bushnell continues to perform below his usual times because of illness.

“The varsity girls race started out as expected with Adele Beckstead running with the leaders,” Fulton said. “But there was a noticeable difference — she didn’t have her usual smile on her face. … she was in pain. A yet-to-be diagnosed injury below her knee forced her out of the race.”

As for Bushnell, he came in with his slowest time of the season (not counting a race in which he ran slower on purpose to pace another runner) more than a minute behind what he had clocked 12 days earlier at the highly competitive Lewis & Clark College meet at Estacada.

“Brody, still under the weather from a lingering illness, kept his cool and form to be runner-up to his friend and teammate,” Fulton said, referring to Candanoza.

The Class 4A state championships are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 6 at Lane Community College in Eugene on the same course that Philomath just competed on for districts. The girls race is scheduled for an 11:45 a.m. start to be followed by the boys at 12:20 p.m.

“This will be the 40th trip to state in the last 42 years for our girls and the 37th of the last 38 for our boys,” Fulton said. “It is safe to say that the other teams in our conference approach the conference meet knowing that only one spot to state is up for grabs because Philomath has a four-decade lock on the other.”

Putting in strong performances all season, Philomath was favored to do exactly what it accomplished on Thursday. The boys race started out with a lead pack of 10 runners through the first mile, Fulton said, before Candanoza and Bushnell broke away and Hernandez lurked back in 10th but moving up.

Ben Hernandez
PHS junior Ben Hernandez had a strong performance and placed third overall behind teammates Mateo Candanoza and Brody Bushnell. (Photo courtesy of Craig McDaniel)

“A mile later it was Mateo in the lead followed by Brody and a surprising Ben. And that’s how they finished, 1-2-3 overall,” Fulton said. “It was a nice victory for Mateo … but it was Ben in third with a personal-best time that really caught our attention.”

Candanoza came in with a time of 16:59.4 to win by more than 25 seconds. Bushnell was second in 17:25.1 and Hernandez third in 17:29.6. Another PHS junior, Jesse Erickson, finished 12th in 18:21.4 and senior Mark Grimmer was 22nd in 19:17.5 to round out those contributing to the team score.

Freshman Warwick Bushnell (28th, 20:22.5) and freshman JJ Lewis (23:29.5) completed the PHS lineup.

Newport senior Aliya Larsen won the girls race in 20:20.8 with Sisters sophomore Ella Bartlett and Philomath junior Ingrid Hellesto within 20 seconds of the winner. Hellesto’s third-place finish had a time of 20:40.6.

Ingrid Hellesto
Junior Ingrid Hellesto was the top placewinner for the PHS girls with third overall. (Photo courtesy of Craig McDaniel)

Freshman Kateri Pindell and senior Kaeleigh Houchin had top-10 finishes with eighth and ninth, respectively. Pindell covered the course in 21:19.7 and Houchin came in with a 21:38.6. Freshman Hanna McDaniel placed 11th (21:53.0) and senior Audrey Gerding was 12th (21:54.6) to account for the team score. Freshman Kyah Weeber placed 15th in 22:09.5 to round out the PHS entrants with Beckstead being the seventh.

The top seven runners earn first-team all-conference honors — Candanoza, Bushnell and Hernandez for the boys and Hellesto for the girls.

In junior varsity results, the boys finished second out of three teams and the girls were first with the only complete team entered. The JV girls dominated with nine of the top 10 individual finishers — freshman Hallie Morrison was the individual champion (22:00.5) followed by freshman Brooke McDaniel in second (22:41.7), sophomore Phoebe Coen in third (22:44.6), sophomore Alexa Eckhold in fourth (22:53.6), freshman Janice Hellesto in fifth (23:37.7), sophomore Danielle Harris in sixth (24:12.8), freshman Averie Wilson in seventh (24:54.2), junior Allison Neelands in ninth (25:50.8) and freshman in Ariana Boutilier 10th (27:10.4).

For the JV boys, sophomore Gradin Fairbanks placed fifth (21:23.9) and sophomore Aidan Bruce was seventh (21:57.4). Senior Bryan Thomas was another unfortunate storyline from the afternoon when he had to pull out because of an injury. The JV boys and girls ran together in one race.

Oregon West Conference Championships
Thursday, Oct. 28 at Lane CC, Eugene


Team Scoring
1, Philomath 37; 2, Sisters 52; 3, Newport 64; 4, Cascade 85; 5, Stayton 104.
Top 10 Individuals
1. Mateo Candanoza, Philomath, 16:59.4
2. Brody Bushnell, Philomath, 17:25.1
3. Ben Hernandez, Philomath, 17:29.6
4. James Lackey, Newport, 17:35.8
5. Sam Laurel, Newport, 17:41.2
6. Cole Jervis, Sisters, 17:44.2
7. Hayden Roth, Sisters, 17:46.6
8. Ethan Kuntz, Cascade, 18:02.9
9. Angel Marquez, Woodburn, 18:08.2
10. Brody Ramseyer, Stayton, 18:08.8
PHS Results
1. Mateo Candanoza, 16:59.4
2. Brody Bushnell, 17:25.1
3. Ben Hernandez, 17:29.6
12. Jesse Erickson, 18:21.4
22. Mark Grimmer, 19:17.5
28. Warwick Bushnell, 20:22.5
41. JJ Lewis, 23:29.5
Note: The varsity boys race included 42 entries.


Team Scoring
1, Philomath 39; 2, Sisters 58; 3, Stayton 63; 4, Newport 90; 5, Cascade 91.
Top 10 Individuals
1. Aliya Larsen, Newport, 20:20.8
2. Ella Bartlett, Sisters, 20:23.8
3. Ingrid Hellesto, Philomath, 20:40.6
4. Hope Bridge, Stayton, 21:03.5
5. Sasha Stolasz, Sisters, 21:09.6
6. Haley Butenschoen, Stayton, 21:14.1
7. Myranda Marquez, Woodburn, 21:17.9
8. Kateri Pindell, Philomath, 21:19.7
9. Kaeleigh Houchin, Philomath, 21:38.6
10. Brooklyn Liddell, Sisters, 21:49.0
PHS Results
3. Ingrid Hellesto, 20:40.6
8. Kateri Pindell, 21:19.7
9. Kaeleigh Houchin, 21:38.6
11. Hanna McDaniel, 21:53.0
12. Audrey Gerding, 21:54.6
15. Kyah Weeber, 22:09.5
DNF, Adele Beckstead, no time
Note: The varsity girls race included 37 entries.


Team Scoring
1, Sisters 16; 2, Philomath 50; 3, Woodburn 71.
PHS Results
5. Gradin Fairbanks, 21:23.9
7. Aidan Bruce, 21:57.4
13. Tyler Moade, 23:02.7
14. Andrew Leonard, 23:21.3
20. Seth Wood, 25:07.1
22. Maxwell Carter, 25:29.0
DNF, Bryan Thomas, no time
Note: The JV boys race included 29 entries.


Team Scoring
1, Philomath 15.
PHS Results
1. Hallie Morrison, 22:00.5
2. Brooke McDaniel, 22:41.7
3. Phoebe Coen, 22:44.6
4. Alexa Eckhold, 22:53.6
5. Janice Hellesto, 23:37.7
6. Danielle Harris, 24:12.8
7. Averie Wilson, 24:54.2
9. Allison Neelands, 25:50.8
10. Ariana Boutilier, 27:10.4
11. Ally Todd, 27:22.3
12. Emery Boutilier, 27:43.5
Note: The JV girls race included 20 entries. has no paywall and to keep it that way, we rely on voluntary memberships. If you’re already a member, thank you for contributing. To join our community as a member or to make a one-time contribution, please CLICK HERE.